Shippy’s: German Comfort Food

Hannah Selinger
Independent/Hannah Selinger

Thirty-six Windmill Lane was once home to the Southampton A&P. The building has been there for 88 years, the restaurant it now showcases — Shippy’s Pumpernickels — for over 60. William “Shippy” Casgrain arrived in Southampton in 1956, where he purchased the Hill Restaurant. Shippy had worked as a bartender in New York’s infamous Toots Shor Saloon. His nickname had been bestowed upon him during his time in the Merchant Marines.

Shippy’s famous city friends — Jackie Gleason, Jack Dempsey, Henry Ford, and Art Carney, to name a few — frequented the bar in its heyday. Today, Shippy’s Pumpernickel, with its reliably delicious take on German food and its nostalgic décor, provides a warm atmosphere for Southampton denizens looking to shed pretense — enjoyably curt service, low-for-the-Hamptons prices, and menu directives (No Substitutes! Plate Sharing Charge!). All the more reason to dig in.

Actually, the restaurant did not become “German” in scope until 1976, when Ed Neilson, a German-born New Yorker, arrived on the East End. The restaurant had changed hands by then and was up for grabs when Neilson bought it and reinvigorated the restaurant menu. The original Shippy’s had been known for its “sizzlin’” steaks, a tradition kept alive by Ed Neilson and, later, his son Nick.

The restaurant teems with tradition, in fact. The original Shippy’s menu, from the 1950s, hangs on the wall, boasting a $1.50 lobster tail special. The bar, like so many of the interior details, is original. Booths speak to a certain bygone age of casual dining, a concept slowly fading from the fabric of eastern Long Island.

While some may prefer a meal at Shippy’s in the winter, when the wood-paneled, rustic, low-ceilinged space oozes coziness, this off-the-beaten-path haunt (thankfully, since it’s just beyond busy Main Street and Jobs Lane, parking is rarely an issue) may provide some solace in the dog days of summer, when every nook and cranny feels swarmed with people.

Potato salad, the American summer side dish to end all others, enjoys a German spin here, with the bright, clean notes of mustard providing an apt counterpoint to competing rich flavors. Potato salad notwithstanding, Shippy’s really is the perfect place to duck in and away from it all. Walking into the decades-old space is like walking into another era. The reminders of modernity are largely sports-based. The restaurant displays horse and golf paraphernalia from recent competitions, like the Hampton Classic and the U.S. Open.

But we’re all here for the food. Diners can expect a comforting take on German cuisine, including wiener schnitzel (a thin, breaded veal cutlet fried in copious amounts of oil), bratwurst, weisswurst, knockwurst, sauerbraten, and more. The Bavarian house platter, at an affordable $23.95, features kassler rippchen (smoked pork chops) along with a choice of bratwurst, weisswurst, or knockwurst. Entrées, even at lunch, come with the choice of a soup or salad and a potato selection and vegetable. And while you may not consider French onion soup to be German food per se (because it isn’t), Shippy’s version is just as good as any other specimen you’re likely to encounter in Southampton.

Among the superlative homemade desserts, the Black Forest cake rises above the rest — although patrons may point you to the equally estimable apple strudel. If you find it too hard to choose between the additional options of Bavarian cream pie, triple chocolate cake, carrot cake, and cheesecake, remember that there’s no shame in ordering the lot.

Each week The Independent features a local restaurant that has stood the test of time. Each restaurant has been open for over a decade.

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